Party Building and Player Agency

For Bard's Tale IV gameplay-related discussion. May include gameplay details and spoilers.

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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by Zombra » April 3rd, 2018, 7:23 pm

demeisen wrote:
April 3rd, 2018, 6:32 pm
Oh, you'd be amazed at how much pushback I've seen from gamers about [party RPGs]. I've seen games blasted in reviews for being "too complex" in requiring the player create several characters. I've seen similar around expecting the player to manage several characters: they prefer just one. I have friends very much in that mindset: they want one PC and one only.
Single-character games can be delightful, of course, and your friends aren't right or wrong to prefer them; it's just what they enjoy.

What is necessary and foundational to a "party RPG" in my opinion is the concept of the "Ensemble Cast", with a group of protagonists who have roughly equal "camera time" and importance to the story. If a game only allows for only one created PC with the rest of the group filled out by CNPC sidekicks, that does not fulfill my conditions for being a party RPG, regardless of how many units the player manipulates on the battle screen.
Gizmo wrote:
April 3rd, 2018, 6:54 pm
demeisen wrote:
April 3rd, 2018, 6:32 pm
I think a lot of the current RPG player base holds that outlook. I think some of it comes from console land.
I would say that they are not an RPG player base at all then. They want the game to be called an RPG, but they appear to want only a cosplay simulator, or an arcade game like some sort of FPP Golden Axe. A true RPG seems unpalatable for them.
Perhaps the most persistent recurring joke on RPG Codex is "What is RPG?", referring to the apparent truism that there is no one definition of role-playing game that a majority can agree on. There are doubtless hundreds of games that call themselves RPGs nowadays that would make most of us laugh at the use of the term. It's evolving into new usages every day. Let's hope inXile continues to remember what it used to mean ...
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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by thebruce » April 3rd, 2018, 7:40 pm

demeisen wrote:
April 3rd, 2018, 6:32 pm
Oh, you'd be amazed at how much pushback I've seen from gamers (mostly, but not entirely, the set raised on console games) about this. I've seen games blasted in reviews for being "too complex" in requiring the player create several characters.
Well, hopefully if inXile is marketing this as a return to old-school gaming, such people will have to bite their tongue and not complain, or inXile will have to stand firm and not give in.
Gizmo wrote:
April 3rd, 2018, 6:54 pm
I would say that they are not an RPG player base at all then. They want the game to be called an RPG, but they appear to want only a cosplay simulator, or an arcade game like some sort of FPP Golden Axe. A true RPG seems unpalatable for them.
And hopefully such opinions and feedback are appropriately weighted by the demographic to which they belong, and the demographic being targeted =/
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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by Zombra » April 4th, 2018, 9:58 am

Guys, am I crazy? I'm sure I saw the "starting with one character" thing mentioned in a couple places, but a quick search and I can't find it again. Did I make it up?
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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by Serjo » April 4th, 2018, 11:13 am

Zombra wrote:
April 4th, 2018, 9:58 am
Guys, am I crazy? I'm sure I saw the "starting with one character" thing mentioned in a couple places, but a quick search and I can't find it again. Did I make it up?
I'm not qualified to answer either question, but this is the first time I've heard of the single character thing.

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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by Gizmo » April 4th, 2018, 11:19 am

It seems to me that the combat system is hamstrung with only one, or a few PCs at the player's disposal; not enough outlets for opportunities. The concept appears to be focused on varied choice of a few finite actions picked from among the entire party; no varied party... no varied choice of actions.

A solo mage for instance, might always have to forgo spell attacks on the first round—and possibly get killed waiting for their spell to materialize in the next round.

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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by Lord of Riva » April 4th, 2018, 1:03 pm

Zombra wrote:
April 4th, 2018, 9:58 am
Guys, am I crazy? I'm sure I saw the "starting with one character" thing mentioned in a couple places, but a quick search and I can't find it again. Did I make it up?
personally? i only heard it from you

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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by Zombra » April 4th, 2018, 6:24 pm

Lord of Riva wrote:
April 4th, 2018, 1:03 pm
Zombra wrote:
April 4th, 2018, 9:58 am
Guys, am I crazy? I'm sure I saw the "starting with one character" thing mentioned in a couple places, but a quick search and I can't find it again. Did I make it up?
personally? i only heard it from you
Wait, here's one citation:
hardcoregamer.com wrote:Like most adventures, The Bard’s Tale IV: Barrows Deep begins as a solo outing, but soon new companions will be recruited to become a formidable dungeon-crawling party.
so I didn't just dream it :P
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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by Crosmando » April 5th, 2018, 1:04 am

Zombra wrote:
April 3rd, 2018, 10:02 am
This is a broad topic, but kicking off I have a specific question.

It's been quietly stated in a few places that the game will begin with a single character and the player will slowly build a full party.
Wait really? This is a make or break issue for a BT game.

I wouldn't neccessarily have a problem with a "World of Xeen" solution where you start the game with a preset party/character but there's a tavern/inn where you can create your own characters and delete existing ones, but really why would you want that? Does InXile think gamers are so dumb they couldn't handle a chargen screen before the game starts?
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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by Gizmo » April 5th, 2018, 4:38 am

Sadly, there are people who balk at the idea of spending twenty minutes creating PCs, before being allowed to actually start experiencing the game.
(But this is generally alleviated by providing a default party.)

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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by PsychicMonk » April 5th, 2018, 6:14 am

It's not only the extra time needed to create the characters. As someone said earlier there are many people out there who want the story/game to focus on exactly one character (their avatar) pretty much like BG1/BG2/POE.

Even though you can optionally create additional characters in these games it always felt like a poor compromise to me. These additional characters were like second class characters, storywise even less important than any npc. Should Inxile really go this way with Bard's Tale then at least to me it is finally proven that they don't care about the old games.

[speculation]
Gender/Race/Class specific banter would be no problem with one (silent) PC + companions + optional silent player generated henchmen
[/speculation]
Last edited by PsychicMonk on April 5th, 2018, 9:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by demeisen » April 5th, 2018, 9:03 am

PsychicMonk wrote:
April 5th, 2018, 6:14 am
It's not only the extra time needed to create the characters. As someone said earlier there are many people out there who want the story/game to focus on exactly one character (their avatar) pretty much like BG1/BG2/POE.
Yep, and also for some people I think it's not merely time, but complexity during play after character creation is over. They'd rather not have to consider many different abilities of multiple classes as they progress through the game. They want to run one character with a small-ish set of abilities.

It's very much not my preference, but that view is something that has shaped the broader RPG landscape. Still, in the big picture view, we're getting 6 PCs, right? Personally I would rather start with all 6 with full customization as BT1 did, but if as a compromise for commercial viability it's necessary to dole them out over a short while so non-hardcore-RPG players aren't overwhelmed, I can live with it. It's not my preferred situation, but compared to the importance of 6 PCs instead of the 1 that some prefer, it's small potatoes. Just don't make the process take too long, please. I want to have the full set soon into the game, rather than be still collecting them at the half way point.

(And thanks to InXile for listening to early feedback and giving us 6 PCs rather than 4. Much better).

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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by Lord of Riva » April 5th, 2018, 9:24 am

Zombra wrote:
April 4th, 2018, 6:24 pm
so I didn't just dream it :P
okay, appreciated. thanks for the link

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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by thebruce » April 5th, 2018, 10:20 am

Gizmo wrote:
April 5th, 2018, 4:38 am
Sadly, there are people who balk at the idea of spending twenty minutes creating PCs, before being allowed to actually start experiencing the game.
(But this is generally alleviated by providing a default party.)
Yeah I'm willing to bet a lot of the first time players when BT came out first struck out with the pre-created party (BRIAN THE FIST et al), and the ones who really loved the game likely went back to either start over making their own characters or continued to play while creating new ones and boosting them.

Having a pre-made party isn't a bad thing at all, imo. It actually emphasizes the flexibility of the game while allowing people to skip the 'tedious' stuff but also allowing them to make it their own. And it doesn't mean there's a story tied to specific character. That's key. So I too hope we aren't force-started with one or more premade characters, but rather start in the guild and, sure, could choose from a "waiting" party of adventurer's, or draft (create) our own.
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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by Gizmo » April 5th, 2018, 11:57 am

demeisen wrote:
April 5th, 2018, 9:03 am
...but if as a compromise for commercial viability it's necessary...
This shouldn't matter, because we paid for the game before they had even begun to develop it... They sold them all at the outset.

Imagine if someone ordered uniforms to be made for a sports team, and later found out that the company had changed the fabric to be more attractive to a broader market. :shock:
Last edited by Gizmo on April 5th, 2018, 12:13 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by PsychicMonk » April 5th, 2018, 11:58 am

thebruce wrote:
April 5th, 2018, 10:20 am
[...] but rather start in the guild and, sure, could choose from a "waiting" party of adventurer's, or draft (create) our own.
That would be the best approach, no need for compromises and everybody would be happy. The only reason I can think of why they might want to start with one PC instead is that this PC is supposed to be the special super duper chosen avatar.

btw: Is it correct that something like Dungeon Master is completely off the table?

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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by Zombra » April 5th, 2018, 12:16 pm

There's been some discussion on the Codex (start about here) regarding the "start with one PC then build your party" concept.

I'm getting to the point of accepting it provided that all PCs are still fully created, where I choose name race class voice pack portrait etc. Seems like it will be an interesting way to introduce the player to basic mechanics so they can be somewhat informed when they start making decisions about how to fill out the party.
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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by Gizmo » April 5th, 2018, 12:22 pm

PsychicMonk wrote:
April 5th, 2018, 11:58 am
btw: Is it correct that something like Dungeon Master is completely off the table?
In a way, what I have seen of it, looks to be closer to RoA and GoldBox titles than DM & Grimrock. This is in the strict sense of FPP exploration, followed by a dedicated separate combat mode. In DM & Grimrock, combat begins right on the spot. In the GB/RoA/ and BT4, the new combat behavior loads, and enemies are repositioned into available slots, for the mini-game.

**If you haven't played Grimrock 1 or 2, they are intentionally very close to DM, and Eye of the Beholder; and both are well worth playing.

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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by PsychicMonk » April 5th, 2018, 12:26 pm

Gizmo wrote:
April 5th, 2018, 12:22 pm
PsychicMonk wrote:
April 5th, 2018, 11:58 am
btw: Is it correct that something like Dungeon Master is completely off the table?
In a way, what I have seen of it, looks to be closer to RoA and GoldBox titles than DM & Grimrock. This is in the strict sense of FPP exploration, followed by a dedicated separate combat mode. In DM & Grimrock, combat begins right on the spot. In the GB/RoA/ and BT4, the new combat behavior loads, and enemies are repositioned into available slots, for the mini-game.
With something like Dungeon Master I meant no real character generation at all like in Dungeon Master.

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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by ZiN » April 5th, 2018, 12:30 pm

I'm pretty sure, that according to Michael Cranford, creator of Bard's Tale, creating your own party of adventurers was of paramount importance.

In addition, being able to create and switch characters at the guild at any time leads to decisions, unique to the classic BT experience: Should I give Brian the Fish a well deserved rest at the Adventurer's Guild, after successfully recruiting this Blast Dragon? That way, I get more XP and will have more carrying capacity... I just found this Holy Avenger, and been hoarding around a Pure Shield for a while, let's recruit a paladin and take him to the tombs to slay some undead...
Obsidian did well, by implementing this mechanic to their inns in PoE, it greatly improved my experience.

BT1-2 boasted an incredible amount of playtime, without artificial restrictions and padding. Nowadays, they just lock your choices and restrict your options and call it "replayability".

As for "chosen ones", to an extent BT2-3 had it, in 2 someone had to become the "Destiny Knight" and in the non-bugged 3 (eg. not the one that is currently available? from InXile) you needed a rogue to become the "Thief of Fate". But that's just BT history...

About creating a whole party being intimidating to nu-schoolers: This is supposed to be an old-school game isn't it? Sure having a default party helps, but the more time the party creation takes, the better for me. I liked to sit there, with thick manuals in hand, spending hours on end to create the perfect party, in classic games like Wizardry, Realms of Arkania and Darklands. Now that's old-school.

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Re: Party Building and Player Agency

Post by Gizmo » April 5th, 2018, 12:31 pm

PsychicMonk wrote:
April 5th, 2018, 12:26 pm
With something like Dungeon Master I meant no real character generation at all like in Dungeon Master.
I remember that Cadash was like that/ (Wizard, Warrior, Priest, and Ninja); no customization.

It may actually be that they are all pre-made PCs; even with their own names. It's voiced dialog, does anyone recall if a PC spoke to any other by name?

EDIT:
I just checked, and when the warrior asks the bard for a song, he refers to her as 'Lass', so it's presumably a PC gender check, and he'd call a male bard, "Lad" (or "Laddy")—unless the PCs are all prefabricated, and their identities known, with the voice recording done to suit; I hope it is not done this way, but I suspect that with animated and voiced PC avatars, that it probably does not allow much (or any) user customization of the characters.

**Perhaps they could re-render the PC archetypes with false colors, that could be user altered in-game during character selection. This at least could let the PCs to have a red shirts or a blue; perhaps blond hair or black.

Alternatively, they might have made five of each, and have sensibly only shown the ones in the demo, to the public. I don't expect a different voice for each PC of a class though; it'd be a pleasant (and welcome) surprise if they did.
Last edited by Gizmo on April 5th, 2018, 12:49 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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